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Parental abduction occurs when one parent takes their child (or children) without the permission of either the other parent or the court. Parents who abduct their own children may move to a different city, a different province, or a different country.

Parental abduction is a serious issue, and it can be very difficult for the parent left behind to locate the children and to bring fast and effective legal proceedings in order to secure the return of the children.

The best way to deal with parental abduction is to stop it before it occurs. However, it can be difficult to convince a judge that there are serious concerns that the other parent will leave the city, province, or country with your children. Even if you obtain a court order or agreement that restricts the other parent’s ability to remove the children from the province or from Canada, the other parent may choose to disobey this order.

If your children are the victims of parental abduction, you should contact the police and other relevant authorities as soon as you discover it has happened. This is particularly important if you are at all concerned that the other parent may try to leave Canada with them. The Government of Canada provides a useful guide to who you should contact here.

You should also talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Begin by contacting a lawyer in your city who is familiar with the law on parental abduction. Your lawyer can guide you through the legal and practical process to locate and retrieve your children.

If the other parent has taken the children to another province or another country, you will also want to retain an experienced family lawyer in that province/country. The remedies that you will need to pursue in order to get your children back will depend on where the abducting parent has gone. You want a lawyer who knows the law in the place where your children have been taken.

It is important to know that just because you obtain an order for the return of your children from a court in your province, this does not mean that the order will be enforceable in another province or country.

When the abducting parent takes the children to another country, your lawyer will want to see if the destination country is a member of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This is an international treaty that sets out a process to ensure the quick return of children who have been abducted by one parent and taken to another country.

If your children have been abducted by their other parent, it is important that you act quickly and that you obtain the help of a lawyer. This is a difficult area of the law, often involving the intersecting laws of multiple provinces or countries. Parents who delay in commencing the appropriate legal proceedings could be found by a judge to have “acquiesced” or “consented” to the other parent relocating with the children. So it is vital that you act immediately.

Listen to Paula talking about child abduction on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning here.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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